Football: Halifax relegated

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Halifax Town. . . .0

Hereford United. . 1

IT WAS an ugly end to a sad day. Within moments of the final whistle being blown on Halifax's Football League existence, police horses were charging into the thick of what turned out to be a mercifully short-lived scrap. Order was quickly restored after a small handful of the 200 or so Hereford fans had reacted violently to a corner flag being thrown into their midst.

So 72 years of league football at The Shay came to an end. Most of the 8,000 supporters who had come to pay what transpired to be their last respects, poured onto the pitch to cheer their team from the field. They stayed on for an hour after the game, chanting 'Shaymen' until they were almost hoarse, cheering their tearful players and generally making noises about being back next year.

The Halifax manager Mike Rathbone appeared at the players' tunnel to address the faithful, announcing that 'with the kind of support you give us we will not be long in that league'. He referred, of course, to the dreaded GM Vauxhall Conference, to which his club had just been consigned.

But whether Halifax will exist at all is the question that now faces the club. Accounts need to be audited and facts need to be faced before the future is determined.

Even in a town where the majority of the inhabitants look upon football as a silly activity next to the serious business of rugby league, Saturday 8 May was a sad day for Halifax. Before the game mathematics had been the main topic of conversation. In the end the equation was quite simple: Northampton stayed up, despite being two goals down at one stage of their match against Shrewsbury, and Halifax lost despite missing a number of good chances. At the risk of speaking ill of the departed, Halifax deserved to lose.

But if there was one player on the pitch who was unwilling to assume the role of executioner, it was Derek Hall. The former Halifax player had been warned by the player-manager Greg Downs before the game that if he did not appear to be committing himself against his old team-mates he would be substituted. Unfortunately for Halifax, he took heed of the threat, sweeping home the winning goal in the 62nd minute.

Some might say that Halifax had it coming to them. They have finished bottom of the Football League on 12 previous occasions, but they were in the good old days when relegation was not automatic. But on this, the 13th occasion, and for the time being at least, the Shaymen are league history.

Halifax Town: L Bracey; D German, B Barr, J Hardy, C Lucketti, R Bradley, J Peake, D Ridings, K Megson, J Patterson, P Craven. Sub not used: D Christie. Manager: M Rathbone.

Hereford: H Judge; G Downs, C Anderson, G Davies, G Abrahams, D Morris, D Hall, O Pickard, D Robotham, R Jones, M Nicholson. Subs not used: M Cross, D Chitterton. Player-manager: G Downs.

Goal: Hall (0-1, 62 min).